‘So many rabbit holes’: Even in trusting New Zealand, protests show fringe beliefs can flourish

New Zealand’s anti-vaccine convoy is hoping to be there for the long haul. Once a ragtag collective of tents, it has become a fully fledged encampment: it has free clothing tents, admin checkpoints, yellow-vested security guards, portable toilets, tents for charging phones, and a “blues lounge” where the band plays a light, jazzy reimagining of Pink Floyd’s Brick in the Wall. “We don’t need no vaccination, we don’t need no thought control,” a woman croons, tapping the bongos.

On the surface, the occupation of parliamentary grounds evokes a poorly planned but amiable music festival, but an undercurrent of violence – or its threat – throbs below. As well as chalked messages of peace and love, some protesters came bearing nooses, promises of a “war crimes trial” for politicians, journalists, and scientists, or outright demands to “hang them high”.

On Wednesday, a man was arrested after driving a car directly at police lines. Police allege protesters have thrown faecal matter and acid over officers [some protesters say this never happened, or was a false flag operation to discredit them]. Despite the encampment’s commitment to being alcohol free, at least one fight has broken out between intoxicated campers. There have also been credible reports of police brutality, with one demonstrator alleging an officer gouged his eyes.

New Zealand has endured most of the pandemic with little experience of the death, mass unemployment, political incompetence or furious partisan infighting that has plagued other countries. Its pandemic response has been characterised by remarkable levels of social cohesion and consensus. Support for pandemic measures – including highly restrictive ones like lockdowns and border closures – have often polled at more than 80%. New Zealanders’ trust in scientists and one another rose during Covid-19, to become the highest in the world. The convoy of furious citizens that have arrived on parliament lawns are the most…

Read full story at the guardian.com

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